This weekend is full of hope and joy. Facebook and Instagram feeds all over the world are celebrating, trees are blooming, and wildflowers are everywhere. However, Good Friday is also a day to remember that even Jesus's followers were grieving a loss today. Most of them felt he failed in his mission. At best, this weekend is confusing to non-believers. At worst, this weekend is full of misery, anger, sadness, and bitterness. Maybe even hate.
There may not be a better time to introduce CS Lewis's book A Grief Observed. Church people can be the best group of people at times. They can also say some of the dumbest things at the worst times. They mean well, but libraries could be filled with hurtful things said to someone in grief. Instead of rehashing those things, I would rather highlight CS Lewis in his moment of grief. If we can be a little bit more aware to those dealing with grief, we might stop getting in the way of God's redemptive message.
Where people in my life fell short, I found comfort in Lewis's book A Grief Observed. I have spent more than two years diving head-first into studying grief, including my own, and I can see that our world does not like to talk about it. Grief is ugly and certainly not linear. I still live with grief daily, but it does not feel as debilitating as it did. Looking back, it is unclear when one stage would end and another would begin. I could not tell you the stage I walk in now, either. What is clear is that we fail to communicate lovingly with one another through struggles.
A few years ago, I would not be so bold as to lead with my faith, but I find it harder and harder to avoid. So this weekend is undoubtedly about hope in the face of death. Although, rewind time to a year or two ago, and my thoughts perfectly aligned with Lewis, "Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer."
I did not want to talk about faith in the days, weeks, and months following Mark's death. Ironically, Mark, Talan, and I often discussed death before he died. During COVID, we even planned our own funerals; I'm not kidding. As we talked, Talan took notes on the music he wanted at his funeral. It is so surreal to think that literally months later, she and I would be sitting with Jenn, Jarrod Robinson (our preacher), and Craig Rideout (one of Mark's favorite singing buddies), planning his actual funeral. Death was a regular topic for Mark. I have mentioned before his half-sleeve tattoo featuring the Latin phrase 'Momento Mori,' which roughly translates to 'Remember You Must Die.'
So, as a believer, and with the topic of death so easily discussed, this should not be as hard for me. But grief is a funny thing. I found grief to be all-consuming and debilitating. As it relates to faith, Lewis says it best, "You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you."
In the months and years following his death, I can attest that I had no idea what I truly believed. I was not ready to put my faith to the test like this. “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear”, says Lewis, and fear is such a good comparison. The biggest fear is that I am not sure...I doubt.
Lewis also says, "The death of a beloved is an amputation" and "Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything." Both images he used there are visceral attempts to describe what grief was like for him. Words do not seem to capture it fully, though.
I believe in Jesus as the Son and risen King, but NOTHING challenges that belief like the death of your person. Every day, even after two years, I still find myself pulling out my phone to text Mark something that happened, to share certain moments with him. Will that feeling ever go away? No wonder Lewis's raw emotions, anger, and questioning of God resonated with me.
Lewis questioned everything, including his own belief in God. He felt guilt, pain, and shock. It was almost as if he was writing this directly from my brain.
The best part is that at the end of his writings, Lewis was not trying to give me answers. He was simply journaling his worst thoughts. Reading his book helped me not to feel alone in my thoughts. His words were validating me for my own worst thoughts. I felt guilty even thinking these same thoughts, but reading Lewis permitted me to feel them, talk about them, and move in them.
This book perfectly spoke to me in my worst moment. I have read this book an additional three times since first reading it two years ago. CS Lewis helped me breathe again. His words helped me heal and not forget, never to "move on." Lewis embraced the grief, sat in the sadness, and shared his heart.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest."
Though we know this is not the end of the story, it is imperative that we not try to avoid this day or speed through to the resurrection. Sadness and grief are part of what it means to be human.
I will conclude with one more quote from Lewis, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accept it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”